As Josh Tyler mentioned in the intro for his list, this wasn’t such a great year for movies. It wasn’t a bad year, but it wasn’t exceptionally strong. At one point that slightly better than mediocre Indiana Jones sequel was in my top 10 by default. I couldn’t have that happen, so I ran out and saw some movies, rented some DVD’s, and rearranged my list.
I think all of the movies in my top 10 below are good or great, but it wasn’t a year that made me say boo-ya. I don’t say boo-ya much anyway, since it makes you sound like a jack-ass, am I right? That Batman movie was the best and of the rest try to rent the things you haven’t seen. It will make you a better person and your breath may smell minty fresh.
1. The Dark Knight
You've heard all the praise heaped on this thing, so it will be impossible for me to add anything new. Heath Ledger died so people started saying he did a great job before they even saw the movie. Then he actually was great, which made people say it was the greatest performance in the history of psychotic clowns. Not to be outdone, Christian Bale makes us forget that George Clooney and Val Kilmer once wore the mask. If he's just a brooding navel gazer, this movie gets boring fast, but he's not. Frankly, everyone is really good in this; even self-righteous Morgan Freeman has a twinkle in his eye. There's also a lot of blather about right and wrong and that nature of the world and those who want chaos for chaos sake, which made us feel smart and almost like we were doing something noble by going to see it. Oh, and Batman jumped off a giant building in Hong Kong. That was awesome.
Best Moment: The thing with the pencil. It's funny cause it was impaled in his brain.
2. Iron Man
In any other year, this movie about a guy who makes an iron suit that flies in order to make up for making bombs would have been the top of the superhero heap. It wasn't even close to Batman's pencil trick mostly because Jeff Bridges bald denture clacker couldn't touch Two-Face, much less the Joker, but man, did Robert Downey, Jr. kick ass in this. Not just as an ass-kicker, but as the guy beneath the suit. It was almost like the real Robert Downey, Jr. was up on screen. Just seemed like a smart, smart-ass who happened to fly around blowing up tanks. Cool action and if I wasn't nuts about Bridges, I was happy with everything else, and you were too. Some people think this was better than The Dark Knight. They are wrong, but it's at least in the same ball park. The first X-Men kinda seems lame in comparison now, doesn't it?
Best Moment: Tony Stark goofing around with the soldiers right at the beginning. He's a funny drunk, like Arthur.
3. The Bank Job
More people should have seen this and still more should have liked it more than they did. Ok, I'm a sucker for a good caper movie, but this movie starts off with a threesome and gets better as it goes! It's not overly complicated, but it has more than enough complexity to make you wonder. It also gives you a sliver of insight into British politics and spies in those swinging 60's. Jason Statham reminds us why it's sad that he does movies like Death Race and In the Name of the King, when he's actually pretty magnetic. It's doesn't have the psychological depth of some of the movies on the list, but you don't have to learn some insight every day of the year, right? Since this one of four movies on my list you probably didn't see, feel free to use my name to get the next copy from Netflix.
Best Moment: I want to say it's the threesome, just for the principle of the thing. It's probably when they find the pictures and Statham finally understands what the whole things been about.
I wonder if this movie boosted sales of Hello, Dolly! on DVD. I actually had it in the second tier of Pixar films after seeing it in the theater, but my opinion improved after watching it a couple of times on DVD. The heavy handed ecological message is still a little much, but the beautiful love story between the two robots just pulls the old heartstrings. Almost like if my toaster and vacuum got together and made sweet, sweet love in the kitchen. Just something lovely to watch. The bleeps and eye gestures of Wall-E are enough to get across what's happening and the musical cues fill in the rest. When Wall-E and Eve get to the Axiom, it becomes something a little less special but also a lot funnier and a bit more exciting. The robot beach umbrella was sort of stupid, but that's really my only complaint. The lack of “name” casting (even Sigourney Weaver was unrecognizable) worked well. Oh, and the animation was the best of the year. That's mildly important with these animated-type films.
Best Moment: The spork, of course.
5. The Visitor
You didn't see this movie and it's probably because it looked like one of those horrible liberal movies that are “good for you.” Well, you're right, it is one with one small difference: it's actually good. A guy you've seen a thousand times but don't know the name of, Richard Jenkins, gives an amazing performance. He's one of those emotionally shut-off guys that gets reinvigorated by friends, music, and a little sex. It tries to take shots at post-9/11 immigration but that comes off as more of a distraction to what is happening with Jenkins than any real political commentary. The director, who was also that jack-ass reporter who made stuff up in The Wire, brings out some great performances by Jenkins and the rest and you'll actually get to feel a little smug that you liked this movie and actually saw it. If you see it, that is, and you should.
Best Moment: Remember when Jenkins and the illegal alien were playing drums on their chest in the detention center? No, because you didn't see the movie, but it was cool.
6. Kung Fu Panda
This whole movie just puts a damn smile on your face. If you hate this movie because you don't like Jack Black then go watch the never ending ponderousness that is Benjamin Button and leave the martial artistic animals to those of us who like to have fun. Black is, of course, hilarious and Dustin Hoffman doesn't sound so much like Dustin Hoffman, which is a good thing. Everyone else is almost a cameo voice actor and when you realize the monkey was Jackie Chan you think “oh, uh, ok.” The animation is, like the whole movie, fun to look at, colorful, and expressive. They also have Al Swearengen as the bad guy, which is pretty damn cool.
Best Moment: When you think the goose is going to tell the panda that he's obviously adopted, but he doesn't. Writing it like that doesn't make it sound as funny as it is.
This movie stars John Travolta and Miley Cyrus and it doesn't suck. That alone should be enough to get it into anyone's top 10. It's actually a strong counter-punch from Disney animation, which has been sucking ass lately. Travolta doesn't overact in this latest comeback and he's a solid lead. Rather than overdoing some sort of annoying moral, they just get Bolt the dog across the country and make him find his way home. Everyone loves that hamster in the ball, right? He's the greatest character in Disney history. Better than Cinderella, Peter Pan, or even the cow Rosanne Barr Arnold played in Home on the Range. He brings the funny hard. I saw it in 3-D and it was pretty good, although they didn't seem to make full use of the medium. Still, a nice job by the folks at Disney who are finally learning it's a good story and not the medium that carries the day in animation.
Best Moment: Rhino tries to hold up the collapsing door or wall or whatever it was in the fire. His little arms are up in the air, inside the ball. I laughed for 20 minutes.
8. Tropic Thunder
I hate Ben Stiller as both an actor and director. He sucks and is only about a tenth as hilarious as he thinks he is. Still, I laughed harder at this movie than I did at anything else in the theater in the last five years. Forget Robert Downey, Jr. as the black sergeant, I can't get past him as the monk grabbing Tobey Maguire's beads. The Simple Jack stuff was priceless and the fact that it caused a real life complaint is the best kind of life imitating art imitating life. Or whatever. Jack Black wasn't so much, but how about Jay Baruchel, he was freakin' awesome. Then Tom Cruise shows up to get down and it's off da' hook. Ok, it's not really, but that was pretty funny and a big f-you to everyone who thought he killed himself on Oprah and Today.
Best Moment: The fake trailers. Maybe the greatest moment in movie history.
9. Slumdog Millionaire
Good, just not OH MY GOD THIS IS SO GREAT like some critics are saying. If you haven't seen a movie that has a Bollywood dance number, the Indian version of an American game show, and a boy jumping into a pit under an outhouse to get his favorite actor's autograph, then you shouldn't miss this. A little too artsy fartsy for its own good, but you won't find a more compelling story or a more appealing protagonist. Plus, you get to see what really happens at those call centers you connect with when you try to activate your credit card.
Best Moment: Jamal twists the verbal knife into the game show host after the host tried to screw him in a non-sexual way.
10. Son of Rambow
There were two sequels of First Blood this year, the better one had no involvement by Sylvester Stallone. That makes a lot of sense when you think about it. Plus, this one has a flying dog. This is one of those movies almost no one saw but it's worth checking out and was certainly better than Sex and the City or Disaster Movie. The two leads, both acting novices, are, as they say in the British Isles, brilliant. There is also a unique visual look to help bring Will Proudfoot's imagination to life. Plus, it kinda makes fun of the French, which is always both worthwhile and fun. Look, they aren't curing cancer with this one and the whole bad kid meets good kid for the benefit of both isn't super original, but it's done better than most and it deserves a bigger audience than it got.
Best Moment: Lee Carter finally sees his epic onscreen.
Best of the rest:The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian,
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,
Forgetting Sarah Marshall,
Quantum of Solace,
Hellboy II: The Golden Army,
The Forbidden Kingdom,
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day,
Worst movie of the year:Disaster Movie was almost worse than Farce of the Penguins. Almost.
For more of Cinema Blend's BEST OF 2008 click HERE.